Eurosonic 2012: The 10 best bands I saw

Having never visited Eurosonic before, I assumed it was your usual music industry festival type-deal. Hundreds of bands and loads of industry looking for the next big thing. While the festival can fill that remit, the important part for me is the European focus. Over 250 bands from around Europe congregate in the city of Groningen, north of Amsterdam in the Netherlands, and live music is the main attraction. Festival bookers and promoters are here to book acts for their festivals and the EU offer subsidies to those who book Eurosonic-featured acts.

Add in the work of the European Talent Exchange Program (ETEP) which encourages festivals to make a commitment to book the same act across a number of festivals in Europe (1359 shows and counting since 2003), the presence of 30 radio stations from across the continent broadcasting live from Groningen (including RTE 2FM’s Ian Wilson has been a long-serving member of the Eurosonic core group) and it makes the showcase event a must-do for bands, promoters and agents particularly.

This year, the spotlight country was Ireland and we were represented by 21 acts: Bitches with Wolves, Cashier no. 9, Emmet Tinley, Fionn Regan, Foy Vance, Funeral Suits, God Is an Astronaut, Hello Moon, James Vincent McMorrow, Jape, LaFaro, Lisa Hannigan, Mojo Fury, Rams Pocket Radio, Squarehead, The Cast of Cheers, The Minutes, Thread Pulls, Toby Karr, Wallis Bird and We Cut Corners. You can check out all the bands at Music From Ireland’s site who help organise the contingency with help from Culture Ireland. For a full report on how they got on at the festival, read my feature in this Friday’s Day and Night in the Irish Independent (/plug).

The Irish focus was the main reason I was there, as well as to participate in a media panel, but of course, I saw about 30 bands from Wednesday to Saturday, and here were my 10 favourite live shows of the week.

1. Honningbarna


I knew very little about these Norwegian kids before I walked into Vera to catch them apart from three different people recommending them in a week. I was blown away. A bunch of brats playing political punk-rock in their native Norwegian language who all looked 16 yet played like they’ve been doing it since they were born. Their name translates as “Honey Children” and there is something sweet and endearing in their ferocious energy. Each member has a very distinct personality but it’s singer Edvard Valberg who dominates the show. Dressed in a royal blue school blazer and tie, he is the spark which ignites them. He plays a cello for some songs, sitting down to strike but he’s so too taken by the music that he heaves back and forth on the chair to the rhythm, shouting at lyrics at the floor while the rest of the band sing the chorus or respond to his lines. They excel live so you might have to to see them there to get the full experience. That said, I’ve been enjoying their most recent album La Alarmane Gå since I saw them on Friday.

Here’s footage from the gig:

3Voor12
Live recording of the Vera Set
Eurosonic Session


2. Clock Opera


While I’ve missed Clock Opera twice on home soil, I have now seen them twice at foreign festivals. The first time was at SXSW in March and the second time around in Simplon on Friday night. They were great last year but they were bloody fantastic on Friday night, showcasing their sky-reaching songs from their forthcoming debut album Ways To Forget. You can hear festival singalongs in the grand buildups of ‘Belongings’ and ‘One And For All’. Watch out for Guy Connelly hitting those note crescendos.


3. Niki & The Dove

Photo by Tom Spray
Another firm favourite around these parts, Eurosonic was my first time seeing these Swedes live. They didn’t disappoint. Malin Dahlstrom’s at the centre of their uncanny dance-pop and she reinforces the mood with rugged spot dancing and arms making spherical moves around her body. There’s also a backing dancer as if that wasn’t enough. Musically, they sacrificed momentum in favour of atmosphere when the song would have done a few times but the eerie noise coming from the speakers was always at least beautiful. ‘Mother Protect’ and ‘The Drummer’ were the standouts.


4. Daughter


It wasn’t going to take much for me to like this a lot. I’m a big fan of Elena Tonra’s first two EPs already and putting her in a big Dutch cathedral to a large crowd was perfect for her show which burned with shimmering intense folk songs and lyrics. She plays Dublin in March with Ben Howard – go see.


5. Frànçois and the Atlas Mountains


Recently signed to Domino, Frànçois and the Atlas Mountains are not going to be everyone’s favourite new band. At times during their Eurosonic set, they sounded like 1. The Beta Band. 2. Paul Simon (specifically Graceland), 3. Animal Collective and 4. like they were about to break into ‘Wimoweh’ aka ‘The Lion Sleeps Tonight’.

It sounds awful but was rather charming. E Volo Love, their first Domino album is out in two weeks.

3Voor12 Eurosonic Session

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